More Fantasy than Fact

In the early twentieth century, the tradition of costume history books took a fantastical turn. These later plates make manifest the metaphorical nature implicit in earlier costume histories. Paul-Louis de Giafferri’s fanciful renderings (Numbers 1-4) of women’s historical dress radiate a 1920s sensibility. These plates are reminiscent of McCall’s fashion spreads, with figures sporting the physique and flirty hair, eyes, and lips of the Roaring Twenties. Each of artist Émile Gallois’s illustrations (Numbers 5-10) of gestural female figures allegorically represents a different French province. Each woman’s dress is alike in shape and style, but bears unique regional emblems including coats of arms, or insignia of local produce or geographical features.


L’Histoire du Costume Féminin de l’an 1037 à l’an 1870. (Paris, 1922)


Provinces Françaises Costumes Décoratifs. (Paris, 1936)